In the past, Missouri has faced rapidly rising violent crime rates and prison overcrowding. A task force that included sheriffs, crime victims, prosecuting attorneys and the Department of Corrections got together in 2017 to find a new way.
This team worked with national experts and found some alarming facts. In 2017, Missouri had:
- The eighth-highest incarceration rate in the United States,
- A high and rising violent crime rate despite the high incarceration rate,
- A high rate of prison returns.
Our prisons were over capacity. About half of new admissions to prison were for violations of the terms of probation or parole, not for new crimes. These admissions were costing Missouri taxpayers $74 million per year.
More than 95 percent of people who enter Missouri prisons eventually are released — about 19,000 people every year. We aim to stop criminal behavior and help these Missourians become productive, sober, law-abiding citizens. We want to stop the revolving door of prison admissions and returns.
About 60,000 Missourians are on probation or parole. Probationers are under the jurisdiction of the courts. Parolees — those who have been released from prison — are under the jurisdiction of the Parole Board. The Division of Probation and Parole supervises these Missourians for the courts and the board. The purpose of probation and parole is for people to correct their behavior and become law-abiding citizens.
The task force endorsed a set of evidence-based recommendations that became law in 2018. State statute 217.361 included changes in the correctional system to better assess, treat and supervise people in prison and on probation and parole supervision. These changes included a validated risk-assessment tool and a policy guiding the use of sanctions and incentives as responses to offender behavior (Missouri Offender Management Matrix).
Sanctions and incentives are proven to work. Using reinforcements in response to positive behavior is a more effective motivator than only using sanctions in response to poor behavior. Our sanctions range from a verbal reprimand to jail or prison. Incentives range from verbal encouragement to small tokens for achievement. Tokens may include certificates of achievement, recognition letters from administration, hygiene products, squeezable “stress” balls, coupons from fast food establishments, or gas cards.
Taxpayer dollars are not used to pay for incentives.
Most incentives have no monetary value. All others are either donated by private citizens or charitable organizations or are purchased with money from supervision fees paid by offenders. State statute 217.690 RsMO authorizes the Department of Corrections to charge a monthly fee for supervision. The fees collected shall be used to provide services for offenders in the community.